I discovered Byron Bay a little by accident. I was applying for jobs in Australia knowing very little about the country except that there was better weather than the UK but more snakes! I only specified to the recruitment company that I wanted to live in easy commuting distance of a beach and not too far north due to the unbearable heat! So I was so so lucky to land a job after my first (slightly disastrous) telephone interview at Lismore Base Hospital! I took it knowing very little about the area, just excited to know I’d be living in the land down under! It was only when I started my research and stumbled across Byron Bay, a small quirky town with an abundance of personality AND beaches within easy commute of Lismore! I got even more excited if that is even possible! Byron Bay did not disappoint! After spending 2 years living there and travelling Australia at every opportunity I can honestly say whilst I loved everything Australia had to offer, Byron Bay was my favourite place and I was ecstatically happy to call it home for a few precious years! Even after exploring 31 countries, I would still argue that Byron Bay is my favourite place. It is totally unique – no where can rival it and I will now tell you why!
- Byron Bay is one of the most unique towns on this planet with a fantastic atmosphere. The locals are super friendly and totally quirky. I loved how at any given moment sat on the beach, someone would launch into a song with their guitar and moments later everyone would join in with the ukulele they kept in their car boot, or tapping out a rhythm on a bin or dancing like they have no care in the world. It was truly magical.
- You might be summoning up an image now of a town full of hippies and you wouldn’t be far wrong! Just down the road is Nimbin a village stuck in time famous for hosting the 4th Aquarius festival in 1973 amid the hippy era! Now you will find a colourful high street with vivid graffiti everywhere you turn and a museum dedicated to all things hippy. Don’t be surprised if you get offered some ‘special cake’ by many of the locals! The police turns a blind eye to drugs here which is part of the local culture. But no one will hassle you, all you need to do is politely decline!
- Along with the hippies you will also find an abundance of surfers (Byron has some of the best surf spots in the world) backpackers (avoid peak season if you can) and millionaire holiday makers who keep huge luxury holiday villas in the hills overlooking beautiful Watego beach. It’s a place where people from all different backgrounds coexist peacefully.
- Somewhere as unique as Byron Bay is an obvious choice of location for a music festival and Byron has two! The Blues festival in autumn and Splendour in the Grass in summer – Australia’s answer to Glastonbury! But being held in a swamp area, don’t forget your wellies!
- There are so many beautiful places in Byron, you are spoilt for choice! Do not miss the Lighthouse walk – a pleasant walk through the woods and along the cliff side to a world-famous lighthouse – the most easterly point of Australia! If you’re lucky you’ll see whales breaching, dolphins playing and a few wallabies in the woods perhaps! You’re also likely to see surfers, kayakers and people paragliding over Tallows Beach.
- As well as taking the walk to get the best views, Its worth driving up super early to the lighthouse for sunrise. It’s spectacular and well worth the early start!
- Another walk worth taking is along stunning Tallows Beach. At the end of the beach you’ll find a little path leading over the cliffs starting at broken head caravan site. Take this path and you will be rewarded with the best views in Byron Bay. It was my favourite spot – I loved sitting on the hill with a good book watching the dolphins play with the surfers just below! The gorgeous little cove which you can climb down to is picture perfect but be warned, some use this as a naturist beach! That said, as it’s fairly remote, it is often deserted and you will have it all to yourself!
- There are so many other things to do in Byron Bay you will never be bored! There are so many great surfing spots – don’t be surprised if the friendly local dolphins join in! There are also whale watching boat tours and a great sea kayaking trip to see more pods of dolphins! I can recommend goeseakayakbyronbay.com.au Alternatively you can try out stand up paddle boarding, go horse riding in the beautiful hinterland or go on a diving trip to Julians Rocks where you may even spot some friendly leopard sharks! For the brave there are also skydiving and paragliding opportunities galore!
- When the weather isn’t so good (rare in Byron bay) there are great live music venues and at the Arts Factory you will find not only a great hostel and bar but also a cinema where you can drink wine and lounge on cushions on the floor whilst watching ‘arty films.’
- There are lots of events at Byron bay such as the festivals mentioned above, an annual films festival, an annual salsa congress, a monthly colourful market which is a must-see and even an annual naked bike ride with quite an impressive turnout!!
- If you’re exhausted after all the various activities on offer in Byron, there are plenty of ways to relax from the abundance of places to get a massage, yoga and pilates classes and the interesting and colourful little gift shops that are worth exploring!
- There are also lots of places near to Byron worth visiting. A favourite of mine is Bangalow. Full of great restaurants, cafes, bars and shops. You’ll find gift, jewellery, vintage and book shops galore – I could happy while away a few hours there just browsing! Lennox head is another seaside town with a lovely beach and some nice restaurants, also worth a visit. Further inland there are plenty of rainforest walks to see waterfalls and beautiful hinterland to explore!
- However, you may find it difficult to pull yourself away from the restaurants in Byron Bay! I can honestly say I didn’t have a bad meal here in all of 2 years! Australians love their food and with the proximity to the sea you will find a lot of great seafood. One of my favourite places to go was ‘The treehouse’ at Belongil Beach. An outdoor restaurant lit up by fairy lights in the trees serving great pizzas and with a great atmosphere and often live music! For a special meal out, The Italian at the Pacific was always a great option. I loved their arancini! For breakfast my go-to cafe was ‘Top Shop’ – not the clothing store for any brits reading this! Far enough away from the town centre that it has a more ‘local feel’ and it served up great chicken pesto sandwiches on sourdough and their banana smoothies were actually a bit too good! I went there far too often! But as its near the start of the lighthouse walk, it’s easy to burn off that smoothie!
- Equally there are some absolutely great places to go to have a few drinks! ‘The Beachy’ set conveniently right on the beach, is the pub where most nights out start! There are also pool tables, sport screenings and regular live music especially on a sunday afternoon where everyone heads to the pub after the morning market. Try and time it when Lisa Hunt is singing – she’s one hell of a soul singer! It was always a highlight! For people watching and a great cocktail list, ‘The Balcony’ is a great place to while away a few hours. They also do great food – I recommend the paella! If cocktails aren’t your thing you may prefer the ‘Railway bar’ – a converted railways station where it’s all about the beers and the live bands!
I truly feel privileged to have been able to call Byron Bay home. Yes it can get packed with tourists over the summer in which case I recommend you stay in suffolk park on the edge of Byron which is where I lived – an oasis of calm when the town centre gets busy! Are there any bad points about Byron Bay otherwise?! Well I do wish people wore more clothes in the supermarket – I saw far too many old men doing their food shopping in just some budgie smugglers! It’s enough to put you off your sourdough and chorizo! But otherwise Byron Bay is probably as close to perfect as you can get!
So what are you waiting for? Book that trip to Byron Bay and allocate at least a few days as there is so so much to do!
If you enjoyed this keep an eye out for more blog articles about Australia including what it was like to work for the Australian health service! There will also soon be articles about my experiences working in Ghana !
Have you been to Byron Bay? What was your favourite thing to do or your favourite restaurant? As always, I’d love to hear from you!